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Therapeutic potential of helminths in autoimmune diseases: helminth-derived immune-regulators and immune balance


Helminths have accompanied human throughout history by releasing immune-evasion molecules that could counteract an aberrant immune response within the host. In the past decades, helminth infections are becoming less prevalent possibly due to the developed sanitation. Meanwhile, the incidence of autoimmune diseases is increasing, which cannot be exclusively explained by the changes of susceptibility genes. While the hygiene hypothesis casts light on the problem. The infections of helminths are believed to interact with and regulate human immunity with the byproduct of suppressing the autoimmune diseases. Thus, helminths are potential to treat or cure the autoimmune diseases. The therapeutic progresses and possible immune suppression mechanisms are illustrated in the review. The helminths that are studied most intensively include Heligmosomoides polygyrus, Hymenolepis diminuta, Schistosoma mansoni, Trichinella spiralis, and Trichuris suis. Special attentions are paid on the booming animal models and clinical trials that are to detect the efficiency of immune-modulating helminth-derived molecules on autoimmune diseases. These trials provide us with a prosperous clinical perspective, but the precise mechanism of the down-regulatory immune response remains to be clarified. More efforts are needed to be dedicated until these parasite-derived immune modulators could be used in clinic to treat or cure the autoimmune diseases under a standard management.

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This work was supported by grants from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant no. 2016YFC1202003, 2016YFC1202005 and 2016YFC1200500), Project of Basic Platform of National Science and Technology Resources of Ministry of Sciences and Technology of China (grant no. TDRC-2017-22), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 81371836, 81572023 and 81271855), Guangdong Natural Science Foundation (grant no. 2014A030313134), Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangdong Province (grant no. 2016A050502008), Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangzhou (grant no. 201607010029), the 111 Project (grant no. B12003), the Undergraduates Innovation Training Program of Guangdong Province (grant no. 201410558274 and 201601084) and Teaching Reform Project of Sun Yat-sen University (grant no. 2016012).

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Correspondence to Zhiyue Lv.

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Wang Meng, Wu Linxiang, Weng Rennan, Zheng Weihong are the joint first authors.

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Wang, M., Wu, L., Weng, R. et al. Therapeutic potential of helminths in autoimmune diseases: helminth-derived immune-regulators and immune balance. Parasitol Res 116, 2065–2074 (2017).

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  • Helminths
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Therapeutic potential
  • Immune balance